Reading the News as a Christian

There have been numerous instances when I have told Christians that I want to be a journalist and they have responded with, “The news needs more Christians like you.” I have always felt torn by this statement. One part of me wants to defend the news and the reporters who have inspired me to go into the journalism industry, while the other part of me readily agrees that being a Christian would enable me to report with a different perspective, relying on my God-given morals and outlook. I know I am not the only Christian battling between balancing their identity as a believer and their consumption of the news industry.

There seems to be a fine line between Christians and the media. I do admit that almost everyone walks along a fine line of doubt when it comes to the news, Christian or not. However, while I understand the uncertainty due to the flood of biased news, it also saddens me. We are fortunate to have news to educate, inform, and inspire us. The First Amendment did not just give us freedom of religion, but also freedom of the press. We live in a country where we have a news industry that can print what it wants to print and inform the public how it sees fit. So, here’s the question: how do we, as Christians, read and respond to the press?

Just Because It Doesn’t Support Your Views, Doesn’t Mean It’s False

Christian culture, and the so-called views that come with it, either good or bad, seeps beyond church walls and into every aspect of our lives. It has divided Christian brothers and sisters into different political parties. It has dictated which news outlets are deemed reliable and which ones are condemned as fake news. It has led to reposting verified news articles to support a Christian belief, while on the other hand it has misconstrued truth as a weapon and used it to deceive others by posting news on social media that is false just to support a belief. Many people in the world are guilty of creating this division and mask of uncertainty when it comes to news because we all want so desperately for our views to be the views that are true. It’s easy to say “fake news” when an article does not align with our worldview or political party or to spread fake news when it supports our opinions. Still, as Christians, we need to hold ourselves accountable and take a moment before we scream “that’s fake news” or put out fake news because we serve a God who is True (1 Jn. 5:20).

We have a responsibility as Christians to base everything we do on the truth found in Scripture, not on lies suffocating our society today. I read at least four news sources a day. I follow more news outlets on Instagram. I listen to news podcasts and have watched 60 Minutes religiously since I was five. The more you take in, the more you can compare and contrast, weeding out what is incorrect and finding the boiled down, unbiased facts. There are numerous news outlets that are pretty much dead in the center as well such as AP News or Reuters. Go to these unbiased outlets to fact-check when something controversial is happening that shows a large divide between political parties. There are incredible nonprofit news platforms that investigate world or local concerns that are not covered by mainstream news outlets. Remember that when an article or social media post does not align with your personal views, it does not necessarily mean that it is untrue. Or even if it does align with your personal views, it may be false. Remember it’s also your responsibility to assess if something is true or not.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

News Can Lead to Understanding, Not Division

If anything, read news that opposes your views and biases, not just supports them. Challenge yourself. Educate yourself. Read news from Christian outlets, like The Gospel Coalition, and read mainstream news outlets. If you are a Democrat, read a right-leaning newspaper. If you are a Republican, read a left-leaning newspaper. Find a newspaper that’s in the middle of the two political parties. Read about different church denominations. Read about Protestants and read about Catholics. Read about places far away from where you live and read about cultures vastly different from your own.

Remember that just because you believe something doesn’t mean that everybody does. Diversify what you read so you can understand these different perspectives and opinions. We cannot love others well if we do not understand them, especially if we do not take the time nor make an intentional effort to understand them. Remember that differences can be united by God’s love. We are all different, but we as Christians are all part of God’s family as brothers and sisters. Our different perspectives and choices display how God created each one of us as unique, but our identities as God’s children reminds us that we are all His, creating a common ground.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. – Proverbs 18:2

For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility…for through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. – Ephesians 2:14,18

God’s Word is the True Word

At the end of the day, when we are questioning what is true or false, what is biased or unbiased, or what supports Christianity or goes against it, we must remember this: God’s Word is the only True Word. When we are uncertain, we must use our foundation in God’s Word to answer these doubts and questions. Reading an article may answer our questions about what happened around the world today, but reading God’s Word gives us a foundation in Truth and in His Gospel.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

When we consume articles everyday that focus on racism or war or inequality or poverty, we must go to the Bible to have a foundation of God’s perspective on these different topics to form an informed opinion. Human perspectives on right and wrong and good and evil are constantly changing as we search through the weeds for truth. Through God’s Word, we get to know His character, which will never change and is not swayed by the opinions of men. News gives us a worldly knowledge, but the Bible gives us a heavenly, eternal knowledge (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Praying Together During Inauguration Week

We all thought 2021 would hold promise for better days after a year marked by fear and aggression, but it has already failed to be the “hope” for which the world longs. After a couple of jaw-dropping weeks, Inauguration Day is upon us. Sadly, the 2020 election left even Christians, our families, and our churches more divided than ever before. Even for those whose preferred candidate won, many Christians can look back and acknowledge great distraction and misplaced loyalty. Going forward, let us turn away from our sin that causes us to place winning over loving our brothers and sisters. One thing I am noticing is that watching or reading news updates makes me long for Heaven even more, so I know that the current political climate opens an opportunity to share the real hope of Christ. In order to display our hope in Jesus, and not the false hope in this world, let us pray together and allow God to soften and reset our hardened hearts with reminders of His authority, love, and trustworthiness.

Scripture holds counsel for every situation! The instructions for believers in Ephesians 6:10-18 remind us 1) who our enemy is, 2) where our strength lies, and 3) why prayer is essential to church unity.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesian 6:10-18

Father, it seems your people can never see eye to eye on issues in the public sphere. Help us unite around what is most important and true– your name and your mighty power. My flesh desires to be right and to win, and even my best intentions to stand up for righteousness and condemn evil can be twisted, resulting in seeing my brothers and sisters as enemies or less-than-human. Condemnation, division, and violence is not what you want, but it fits perfectly into “the devil’s schemes.” I plead that we would keep our eyes on the real battle, which is not of this world.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:13-17

You, Lord Jesus, provide all I need to engage in the spiritual battle happening around me. You know the pain and evil that this world holds. You lived here and felt every emotion and challenge I feel, yet you responded without sin. Instill in me your Word and help me stay tethered to it. You have declared me righteous through your Son’s blood. Teach me to daily accept your gift of salvation and live in freedom rather than condemnation. Fit me for opportunities to serve, love, and tell of your goodness, moved by the urgency of your gospel. Secure my faith, may it become the shield in which I trust rather than the false refuge of a political party or social movement. Help me identify flaming arrows disguised as distractions. With the helmet of salvation mark me as uniquely yours because at the moment you saved me, I was born again into your family (2 Corinthians 5:17). Teach me how to use the sword of the Spirit by revealing to me specific pieces of Scripture that contradict what the world is telling me.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18

Keep me close to you in prayer. Motivate me to establish rhythms of prayer that replace rhythms of turning to social media for answers. In you I find true peace, perspective, and purpose. Unify the Church around what matters most: our faith in you. Then move us to pray and work on behalf of brothers and sisters. Keep me alert not only to the needs of people within my country, but especially brothers and sisters around the world, who you know are suffering persecution. Thank you for softening my heart towards others through your love, even those with whom I disagree. May I have a selfless posture of prayer rather than a defensive stance of pride.

When the fallen world acts, well, fallen, we as Christians can step into the raging unseen battle through prayer. Only a relationship with Christ can transform us into people who are overflowing with hope and respect for others. The stark contrast between popular behavior and the example of Jesus, offers an opportunity for believers to stand out, so let us start with prayer and practice following Christ’s radical example during this inauguration week.

Whole-Life Pro-Life

Herbie Newell is a graduate of Samford University and has served for eleven years as the Director of Lifeline Children’s Services, which is a global and domestic adoption agency.  In January of 2020, he released Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life, which presents a challenge to the Church and a call-to-care for people of all ages, races, and circumstances.  

Most of the time we hear the terms pro-life and pro-choice associated with political candidates and parties.  It is something that determines how a lot of evangelicals vote, but this is a much more vast and deep and urgent issue than I personally, and we as a culture treat it. As a Christian, I believe life begins in the womb and is indescribably valuable. When I hear many pro-choice speakers arguing that because of the broken adoption and foster care centers, disaster would strike if abortion was outlawed, I can’t help but see where the church has failed. These are valid thoughts, and I can see where the Church has been very outspoken about being pro-birth but has failed to care for the parents in these very difficult situations.

To prove the babies for whom we are fighting will be loved if the mom chooses life, we need to care for orphans well, care for people with special needs, and care for foster children and families. This is where Lifeline steps in. Lifeline sets an example of holistic support for life through shepherding families through adoption, while also providing resources for those in the foster care system and support for parents who would like to regain custody of their children.  

James 1:27 says, 

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

As Christians, we have a clear responsibility to care for those in distress, and in this episode, we walk through what whole-life advocacy looks like for the Church as well as how to get involved as college students.  In Image Bearers, Herbie leaves us with several questions, “Am I willing to be inconvenienced in order to defend life?” and, “Is my apathy towards the voiceless contributing to injustice?”  These are challenging questions, but wrestling with them will lead to finding out how we may use our prayers, unique positions, and gifts to fight for the voiceless and care holistically for distressed families.

Biblical Justice

After diving into Scripture and seeking out God’s instruction for life to the fullest on this earth, we should be naturally driven to engage in the world around us while we wait for Jesus’s second coming.  In his book Generous Justice, Tim Keller writes, “A true experience of the grace of Jesus Christ inevitably motivates a man or woman to seek justice in the world.”  

Our salvation motivates us to bring others into the family of God, just as we were once aliens. I believe learning and listening lead to a new understanding of how to love our neighbors well.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
-Ephesians 2:19-22

Dr. Brent Strawn is an author of scholastic works such as The Old Testament: A Concise Introduction and The Old Testament Is Dying (Theological Explorations for the Church Catholic): A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment.  He is currently a professor at Duke’s Divinity School and Law School.

In this episode, Dr. Strawn tackles questions such as, “Does God care about justice?” and explains some parts of the Mosaic law which reflect God’s care for the vulnerable.  When God was king of Israel, the nation operated as a theocracy, and today we still have a responsibility as the Church to act as citizens of heaven. When Jesus enters history, he perfectly displays a life of loyalty to God while living under the earthly government, the Roman empire.  He respects authorities while living totally different than the surrounding culture. He seeks justice for the lowest in society out of a humble overflow of internal righteousness, and we can seek to follow this example.

Modern-day “social justice” seems to be a movement separate from the Church.  What should our involvement look like? Are Christianity and justice separable?  Find out more in Episode 2 of The Dual Citizen Podcast.

Coronavirus and Christ: A Review

In response to the recent events of the COVID-19 global pandemic, John Piper has released a new book entitled Coronavirus and Christ. In these short 112 pages, Dr. Piper responds to the health crisis that has affected nearly every person on earth. His ministry, Desiring God, is very clear that they have two primary interests in mind: the sovereignty of God and Christian hedonism. In this book, Piper views the events of COVID-19 through the lens of these two doctrines.

Calvinism & Christian Hedonism

If you are going to read this book, you should know that Piper is openly committed to a Reformed understanding of salvation, which is often referred to as Calvinism. In addition to this, he is a Christian Hedonist. Piper famously summarized Christian Hedonism by saying that, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” 

This book will not primarily argue for those doctrines, but will assume they are true. If you are not familiar with these doctrines, you may want to read Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace and Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist.

Catastrophic Events of the Past

Piper’s Response to 9/11

Piper is not new to writing on the relationship between these two doctrines and current events. After the attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, many were wondering if God caused this event to happen. Piper argued that,

The very power by which God governs all evils, enables him to govern your life. He has total authority to turn this and every other evil in your life into your everlasting life.

He then went on to say that, “The sovereignty of God is the very rock solid foundation that enables us to carry on in life.” This is important to remember because it is a very crucial idea that paved the way for Coronavirus and Christ.

Piper’s Response to Hurricane Katrina

After the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina that struck Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, Piper responded to NPR Senior News Analyst, Daniel Schorr, by saying that,

Our guilt in the face of Katrina is not that we can’t see the intelligence in God’s design, but that we can’t see arrogance in our own heart. God will always be guilty of high crimes for those who think they’ve never committed any.

Piper later went on to write Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ in response to the events in New Orleans as well as the general idea of God’s sovereignty in relation to evil and tragedy.

The Aim of This Book

Without the previous books and articles responding to current events, there is no way that someone could have written, published, and translated a book in seven languages within weeks of the pandemic’s global spread. With that being said, if you are familiar with Piper’s work, then you will find this book to be a timely reminder of timeless truths rather than a creative expression of new ideas.

What Fell Short

As a student of journalism, I live in a world that possesses a particular disposition towards novelty, but as a student of theology, I am reminded of the importance of historical roots. Initially, due to my background in journalism, I was frustrated by the lack of novelty, but my background in theology reminded me that new isn’t always needed. To be honest, my first impression of this book was that it was incomplete. While it contained quite a few reminders and Biblical answers that I will address in the latter part of this review, something was missing.

As an adherent of the Reformed soteriological views that Piper argues from, my problem was not as much with what was in the book, but what was left out. To be clear, my primary issue was not with Piper’s theology, but with his overwhelming repetition.

Book Structure

The book is split into two primary sections: “The God Who Reigns Over the Coronavirus” and “What is God Doing Through the Coronavirus?”

The God Who Reigns Over the Coronavirus

In this section, Piper laid the foundation for his argument by succinctly explaining the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and Biblical authority. In the promotional material for the book, Desiring God markets the book as an invitation:

[The book invites] readers around the world to stand on the solid Rock, who is Jesus Christ, in whom our souls can be sustained by the sovereign God who ordains, governs, and reigns over all things to accomplish his wise and good purposes for those who trust in him.

Sound familiar? It is very similar to Piper’s response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Yet Piper does not mention the events of Hurricane Katrina or September 11th in this work. This frustrated me because it weakened his argument. By choosing not to point back to specific events of the past, this book seemed like it was trying to present novel ideas, yet it clearly was not. To be fair, he does mention the cancer diagnosis that he received in 2005. Apart from a subtle reference to terrorist attacks and tsunamis, it seemed like this book could have related the issue of the coronavirus back to previous national and global events where God’s sovereignty could be clearly seen.

Additionally, this section seemed to be far too concise to effectively articulate the foundational beliefs that would lead a Christian pastor to look at a global pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people and conclude that God had ordained for it to happen.

What Went Well

Despite my initial frustrations, I thoroughly enjoyed Piper’s new book. Again, it did not seem to be anything more than a reminder of the timeless truths, but sometimes a reminder is exactly what we need. While I felt like this book lacked something, the content presented in the book was incredibly helpful.

What is God Doing Through the Coronavirus?

Contrary to my frustrations with the overly abbreviated first half of the book, the latter half of the book was worth the frustrations. In these chapters, Piper presents six Biblical answers to what God might be doing through the coronavirus.

Naturally, I am critical of someone who supposes to know the exact purposes of God in any horrendous event such as a pandemic, yet Piper humbly articulates that these are six ways God uses evil throughout the Scriptures. God’s meticulous sovereignty is seen throughout Scripture, in the midst of good and evil. The answers that Piper presents are not speculative or prophetic, but exemplary Biblical principles.

I sympathize with Preston Blakeley, one of The Church Editors, who recently wrote,

His statement that “the coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for repentance” caught me off guard, and I felt as if this statement could have been worded better. He redeems this in his explanation: this pandemic reminds us that we are finitely human, and Piper begs us to see that God desires that we cease to be the child who is “making mud pies… because he cannot imagine a holiday at sea.” We are faced with the trivialities of our own existence, and we are increasingly reminded of our opportunity to trade in trinkets for gold.

Many of the answers Piper presented are worded in ways that we don’t really speak, yet the truths presented within their explanations are incredibly helpful. In his review of this book, Blakeley does well to remind us that we can “trade in trinkets for gold.” This helpful illustration points us back to another one of Piper’s key themes: don’t waste your life. In the same way that Piper’s short theological essay, Don’t Waste Your Cancer encouraged readers not to waste their pain, Coronavirus and Christ encourages readers not to waste this time of uncertainty and anxiety.

How to Read This Book

Between the relative briefness and the abundance of time now available due to current “safer-at-home” restrictions, take a few hours and read this book. Pray through the passages of Scripture that Piper points the readers to and ask the Lord to use this as a reminder of God’s sovereignty in the midst of uncertainty.

You can read or listen to this book for free on: https://www.desiringgod.org/books/coronavirus-and-christ.

I received this free review copy from Crossway. The opinions of this review are my own.

The Perils of Boredom: The Value of Learning in a Pandemic

It is only proof of our humanity if we feel anxious in times of uncertainty. Our new “normal” presents us with an unprecedented phenomenon—time. With time comes boredom, and it is likely that we will feel most of the effects of this worldwide pandemic in our boredom. 

The Dangers of Boredom 

“What am I going to do with all this time?” 

In The Screwtape Letters, the senior devil, Screwtape, convinces his apprentice, Wormwood, to pervert his subject’s natural desire for change. Wormwood uses the apparent presence of abnormality to force the subject into believing that novelty—change for the sake of change—will suppress his boredom. 

Given that boredom is justified by uncertainty, the subject is convinced that any new, exciting idea can satisfy his longings. Thus, boredom and novelty complement themselves dangerously, as they persuade us that anything is worthy of our attention—sin and apathy are usually byproducts of this threatening mixture. Caught under this spell, the subject comes to the end of his wits, falling into a state of perpetual lifelessness: 

You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. 

Without undermining the seriousness of our situation, “perpetual lifelessness” is undoubtedly threatening the spiritual, intellectual, and psychological growth of younger generations. Lewis’s mention of “staring at a dead fire in a cold room” bears a peculiar resemblance to the issue of technology and social isolation, an issue that so often leads back to apathy. In that, the endless scrolling of social media may prove the most dangerous fuel to the fire of lifelessness. 

One anecdote to the affliction of lifelessness is learning—learning not as an end in itself, but for the sake of truth—and we will discuss this in the latter half of this article. Before dealing with the why of learning, we must first examine the significance of our times. 

So, What Is “Normal?” 

We are mistaken when we justify boredom, and consequently “perpetual lifelessness,” with the absence of “normality” or “certainty.” The fact of the matter is that “normal life” is a façade, and human culture has forever existed on the brink of collapse. 

Humanity exists at the mercy of unforeseen, dangerous circumstances. The impact of plagues and terrorism are threats to be expected, yet they, also, occur without anticipation. Even the seemingly “normal,” tranquil periods of existence are tormented by the unpredictable. Although some seasons of life may be more normal than others, true normality is unattainable. In his famous sermon, Learning in Wartime, C.S. Lewis echoes this point when he states that: 

The war [or virus] creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.

Lewis reminds us that our previous normal has been swept away into a sea of uncertainty, and our peril—this virus—prompts us to realize that we cannot ignore the finitude of our own existences. Our current times remind us that the human condition is but a shadow, and “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). 

The absence of a true “normality” should not negate the anxiety we feel about current circumstances—we are allowed to feel, just as Christ did at Gethsemane. The Cross reminds us that God uses evil for good, but also teaches us that He is not in the business of nullifying emotion. We may cry out “my God, my God,” while also submitting to His Lordship—and this is the beautiful paradox of Christianity. 

A Remedy to Boredom 

Now that we have established that the justification for boredom is void—due to the fact that “normal” does not truly exist—we can look at one possible solution. 

One beneficial thing we can do to combat “perpetual lifelessness” is to actively exercise our minds. It is easy to forget that the New Testament not only promotes the idea that Christ is our master, but also our teacher, and we are His lowly students. Christ calls us to sit at His feet, and this means growing to learn and love His teachings (Luke 10:38-42). Yet, the natural prerequisite to appreciating any teaching is to know the dangers of the alternative. This point is further illustrated in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians when he states: 

[I] did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech and wisdom… and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
-1 Corinthians 2:1, 4-5

History tells us that the church at Corinth found herself struggling to dismiss the platonic, stoic, and cynic schools of thought, and it is these philosophies Paul refers to when he says “lofty speech and wisdom.” Because Paul is aware of these ideologies, he can present himself as a student of Christ, given that he is able to gauge his perspective with an alternative. In this way, the Great Commandment is not merely a call to preach Christ, but a call to know what it means to not preach Christ. 

Why Learning Combats Boredom

I make the point of the student—the point that the student must grasp alternatives—to say this: the beauty of the gospel message shines even brighter when we apprehend its inverse. For what is the value of a lovely, spring day without the bitter winter? It may ring true that reading—and possibly, healthily empathizing with—the nihilists, postmodernists, and skeptics might bring us closer to Christ, and in greater comfort of truth. 

As theological and philosophical illiteracy has plagued younger generations, reading the “alternatives” is not necessarily a given. Yet, learning for the sake of truth challenges the temptation of boredom, and heightens our adoration for Christ. The path of novelty and lifelessness becomes less attractive as Christ is our guide through all the abnormalities of life.

“That You May Know That I Am the Lord”

Control and COVID-19

What a strange few weeks it has been. Something that was merely a topic of conversation and cause of worry has now radically shifted our lives for the foreseeable future. This is so disconcerting to us. In the comfort of most of our everyday lives, it is easy to feel some semblance of control. 

If we’re honest, most of the time we think that we are strong and powerful enough to have control over our lives. We forget that, in every moment, God is holding the whole world together. We forget that nothing happens that does not require him to remain in control.

I have often heard the prayer “Lord, will you comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” I always squirm at that prayer because truth be told, I am often comfortable. I do not think it is wrong to be comfortable, but I do think that comfort can be incredibly dangerous. Often, it is easy to forget our desperate and constant need for God when we are comfortable. We never graduate from our need for God to hold our life in place. This virus, though scary and full of uncertainty, serves as a great reminder of this. 

Recently, I have been reading through the book of Ezekiel. As I read through the book, I was struck  by the statement that followed the prophecy of coming destruction. God would always end the prophecy by saying “that you may know that I am the Lord.” 

Losing Our Perceived Lordship

In so many of our days we make ourselves “lord.” Whether that be in having control over our schedule, where we go, what we eat, how we dress, whatever it is, it is easy to feel that we are actually lord of it all. The spread of the coronavirus, as well as the instructions we have been asked to follow, have rubbed up against our day-to-day comfort and control. This is painful and uncomfortable. 

This is not to say that this virus has happened for the sole purpose of eliminating our illusions of control. However, realizing how little  control we actually have is certainly a byproduct of this strange time. The question we ought to ask then, is what to do with this difficult, yet valuable, effect of COVID-19.

I have been clinging to Psalm 77 lately. It begins by saying, 

I cry aloud to God,
Aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
In the night my hand is stretched out
Without wearying;
My soul refuses to be comforted
When I remember God I moan;
When I meditate, my spirit faints.
-Psalm 77:1-3

Similarly, in Job 13, Job says, 

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”
-Job 13:14

The Lord Welcomes Our Cries

I love this. The Lord welcomes our cries to him. He does not ask us to white-knuckle through difficult times and pretend that everything is fine. Our brains don’t really have a category for this, which makes this time even more difficult and uncomfortable. 

God never asks us to mask our true fears and pains, he only asks us to bring them to Him and promises that He will be with us all along the way. And not only is it good to be honest about our fears, but we are even welcomed to cry out to God with them. Job says that no matter what he will trust God, but he will be honest with him that this is hard and confusing, and even that he is angry with God. God can take it. And he welcomes it. 

In these days where we are reminded that we need Christ every hour, we can grieve and process our loss of perceived lordship over our lives. Thankfully, we are not left without a lord over our lives—we have the One True Lord. God has always been the Lord, and it is never too late to rest in His power and sovereignty. Psalm 131 is so dear to me because it says: 

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

-Psalm 131

God is near. If you are in Christ, He is in you. What sweet news! We can rest and trust in His nearness like a child with her mother. But again, sometimes children still cry as their mothers hold them. We can do this with God. He does not wait for us to pull it together and then come to Him. We can come to him in our fearful, tear-stained state, and he will wrap us in His arms. This is beautiful news. 

Resting in Christ’s Lordship

In thinking about this newfound time, what does it look like to rest in the arms of the Father? Spending time in the quiet, I have already felt the great comfort of His nearness, but also the discomfort that comes from not having busyness as a bandaid for those things we would rather ignore. These are all being brought to the surface: doubts, loneliness, sin patterns, and struggles that are easy to hide when we busy ourselves. Now these are what we are left to sit and process. Again, God is there in the midst of our messiness. He loves to enter in. Go to God with your fears as well as your sin and messiness. You will find He is already right there in the midst of it all. 

Psalm 77 ends with the psalmist saying:

 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes I will remember your wonders of old,
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
-Psalm 77:11-12

In the midst of all the uncertainty, pain, loss, and discomfort, the Lord welcomes our crying out to Him. We can come as we are to his arms. He is our “Abba,” and we have the access that a toddler has with her mother. Let us use it! Cry out! Use this time to sit with your Father. Soak in His presence, and let him speak into that which has been left in the shadows. But also, we can rest as we remember God’s faithfulness of the past. We serve an unchanging God who is, by his very nature, Love. Since before the creation of the world, God the Father has been pouring out His love to His Son through His Spirit. He is love. And He is unchanging. God is at work—always. And we can bank on that. 

In this time where control feels vaporous and fear seems more real and more real by the day, God has not lost control for an instant. While He is running the whole world, He also is so accessible to comfort us amidst our affliction and uncertainty. We are not lord over our lives, but thanks be to God that we have access to the One who is!

As the hymn, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” says, 

Thy Mercy Seat is open still
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend thy will
And wait beneath Thy feet 

Friends, this time is weird and hard. We are vividly feeling our lack of control. While we feel many losses, we have never and will never lose the sovereignty of God and his constant presence with His people. Let us remember that we have access to Him. In this uncertain time, let us sit at His feet, and be comforted like little children, that He is never going anywhere. Though everything else seems to be changing, He never has and never will change. He is the Lord.

The Good News That God Is Sovereign

There’s no doubt you have been immersed in the news these past few weeks and have seen the effects and impact of COVID-19. Currently, officials estimate that around 6,500 people have been killed by the virus thus far and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands more have been infected. The past few weeks have been chaotic with online schooling, travel restrictions, ghost towns, and online church services. However, there is a truth that comforts those who are in a relationship with Jesus Christ: God has been, is, and will always be in complete control.

It is easy for us as Christians in times of panic to say “Oh yes, of course God is in control, y’all don’t worry.” But do we really believe and trust that God is sovereign and in control? Do we really trust that God’s sovereignty is a good thing? What does this mean, especially in the midst of such a fearful time?

God is Sovereign Over All Things

“God is sovereign,” simply means that He is in control, meaning that everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen does not occur apart from the decree or permission of God. On the topic of God’s sovereignty, A.W. Pink writes: 

Were it in anyways possible for something to occur apart from either the direct agency or permission of God, then that something would be independent of Him, and He would at once cease to be supreme.

God’s sovereignty is one of the most beautiful truths which reveals to us God’s perfect character. Starting in Genesis 1:1, we see that God created everything. Psalm 145:7 says: “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” All throughout scripture God reveals to us His sovereignty (1 Chron 29:11-12, Job 42:2, Ps 8:1, Ps 24:1-2, Pr 3:5-7, Jer 32:27, Rom 8:29-30, Eph 1:11-12, Col 1:16, Heb 4:13). He is in control of all things. 

Why does it matter that we recognize that God is sovereign? If God were not sovereign, He would cease to be God. We would have no assurance of salvation. We would have no way to be justified by Christ and be saved. We would have no morality. We would be dead in a chaotic world with no way to become alive. God’s sovereignty allows us to run to Him and have faith in Him—to be alive in Christ by His grace.

In times when we are overrun by anxiety and fear, we can go to Him and be calmed in His presence. We are able to be fully loved and reconciled to God despite our brokenness because of Christ. We ought not worry because God has given us His Spirit of love, power, and sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). We will encounter anxiety and fear, especially pertaining to the sickness and death brought about by COVID-19, but we are called to submit ourselves to the Lord and lay our anxieties and worries at His feet (Matt 6:34, Phil 4:6, 1 Pet 5:6-7). God, in His grace, has given us the ability to feel and relate emotionally. But we are not given these emotions so that we may be left to our own devices. Instead, our feelings and emotions allow us to truly run to God and have faith completely in Him. He wants us to feel and experience emotions but he wants us to feel those emotions in His presence with Him. We should run to our Almighty Father, who calms us and gives us hope. He takes us into His arms and brings us peace because in His presence, we recognize that He is sovereign and that it is good that it is so!

The coronavirus pandemic is not something that has taken God by surprise. Instead, God is using it to point His people back to Him and to point all glory to Him (John 9:3). Though it is incredibly hard for us to see, we trust that God is using this for His glory. In all of this, whether we feel joyous or indifferent to God’s power and control, we can come to Him who is sovereign and loving.

What Does This Look Like Right Now? 

It can be difficult to know what it looks like to have faith in God and His sovereignty in practical ways. Here are six practical steps to take in order to glorify God, grow in our faith, and point others to Christ during this time of worldwide panic. These practical steps help us to be present with God during the craziness of this disease and its effects.

Have faith in Christ alone

In light of how we have seen God’s sovereignty laid out all throughout scripture, we are called to an initial response of faith. We are not enabled to have faith on our own because none of us seek after God (Ps 14:3). Only by God’s grace in Christ attaining salvation for us, are we enabled to have faith (Rom 10:9-10, Eph 2:8-9). 

We have faith purely in Jesus; that he lived a perfect life, died an atoning death, and rose three days later to accomplish salvation for us. We were destined to damnation in hell due to our sin but all those who repent and have faith in Christ will be saved and spend eternity delighting in the one true God (Gen 3:16-19, John 3:16, Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23, Rom 5:8, Rom 10:9-10). 

We have faith not because we are good but because God is good! We have faith that God is who He says He is (Ex 3:14, Ex 20:1-2, Deut 32:4, John 14:6, 1 John 14:6), and we know who God is because he reveals Himself to us in His word! Read His Word daily and seek to know God more. Pray and humble yourselves before God and make your requests known to Him. Death is not the end for us. Because we know that Christ has conquered death, we can be comforted amidst the fear that death does not have the final word. We have hope in Christ alone.

Preach the gospel

We are called to preach the gospel to all and should desire to preach the gospel to all. Jesus tells his disciples and commands us all as followers of Christ to go to all nations, preach the gospel of Christ and call all to repent and turn to Jesus (Matt 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16). We are called to do this in love (Matt 22:34-40, 1 Cor 13) and to lovingly yet truthfully proclaim the truth of God and His word to all. How unloving and selfish would it be for us as Christians to not share the gospel to everyone we meet during such a time! 

If we have been saved by Christ alone, then we ought to have a desire and passion for all to hear the gospel, repent, and be saved. Those who do not have faith in Christ may be fearful and panicked during this time and this is such a wonderful opportunity for us to share with them why we have hope and do not fear or panic in such situations but rest solely on Christ.

Be prayerful

We ought to be prayerful during this time. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing,” and Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Pray and thank God for who He is, for His word, and for saving us. Pray that, regardless of what is happening, we would desire His will and be humbled before Him. 

Pray for those who do not know Christ and that the Holy Spirit would save them. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ and that they would have the boldness and faithfulness to preach the gospel and love their neighbor, who most likely is overwhelmed by fear and anxiety in this time (1 John 4:19). Pray that if it be His will that the virus would cease and that all those who are sick would be healed. Pray that we might sing God’s glory in all of this.

Be mindful and love your neighbor well

If the love of Christ truly dwells within us, that love will flow out toward others (1 John 4:19). Be loving towards all as Christ loves us but be smart and mindful as well. Don’t go out in mass groups, and be sure to follow safety precautions. Be kind and loving in how you interact with everyone. Be provisional for you and your family but don’t hoard or be selfish. Be thoughtful of others and the need for others as well. Use discernment on when to go out and be mindful of those who are more susceptible to injury and possibly death. Refrain from jokes that make light of the harmful effects and outcomes of the coronavirus and let wholesome talk that will point others to the gospel flow from you (Prov 15:28, Eph 4:29, Col 4:6, James 3:1-12). Be mindful and prayerful for those who are affected or have been affected, especially those who have had friends and family die. Be there for those around you and check in on people often. Be a faithful witness and messenger of the gospel at all times, even after this pandemic. Show others the hope that we have in Christ by actively living it out. 

Immerse yourself with the Bible

Don’t spend more time in the news than your Bible. This should be a daily thing. Yes, it is important for us to know what is going on in the world, but distance yourself from the TV and phone screens and run to God. Spend your time reading God’s Word and talking about it. Seek God in the midst of this time. It will serve us much better to fill our hearts and minds with the truth of God and who He is more so than what the world is offering us. We will never truly know what is going on in this world but we do know who is in control of it all—God Himself!

Praise God

Praise God for who He is in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak. Especially in the midst of the chaos brought about by this pandemic, praise God for always being with us and giving us peace in His presence. Praise God for His sovereignty. Praise God for His grace. Praise God for His love. Praise God for His mercy. Praise God for His justice. Praise God!

Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
-Psalm 113

The COVID-19 outbreak is a serious pandemic. It has taken many people’s lives and needs to be taken seriously. It is leading many people to be anxious and fear horrifying outcomes. Fear and anxiety are natural things to feel. God has given us the ability to feel such emotions because God cares for us and loves us. But when we begin to experience fear and grow anxious, God wants us to go experience those feelings in His presence (Ps 34:18).

When we are in God’s presence, we will begin to look more like Him and in turn our fear and anxiety will turn into hope and peace. It is such a beautiful and loving thing that the all-powerful and sovereign God will not turn us away in our fear and anxiety but instead love us and call us to Himself in the midst of those emotions. Do not be ashamed of your fear or anxiety but run to the Lord for a hope in Christ that drives out fear and a peace in Christ that, regardless of what is happening, will calm our heart and bring us full, eternal satisfaction.